Have We Forgotten How To Market?

Excuse me while I rant a little bit.
What’s up with email subject lines coming from big brands lately? Way too many look like lazy marketing or borderline spam.
Here are some culprits:   
1. One household brand name sent these over recently: 
  • ! JACKPOT: …
  • SPECIAL MESSAGE: Congrats ...
  • ! ATTN ...
  • No joke, …
  • Ignore THESE ...
  • ! Try to ignore THIS: ...
These subject lines, which I excerpted, also put an emoji at the beginning, such as a smiley face, exclamation point and even an email icon.
2. A multibillion-dollar retailer occasionally hints it goofed by using a phony "Oops!" subject line. "Oops?" Is this the best we can do?
3. Several retailers use ALL UPPER-CASE LETTERS and "!!!!!" in subject lines.
4. Hundreds of retailers use a variation of the same subject line in almost every email: “FREE SHIPPING and 20% off today only!” Robo-subject lines that rarely change -- do they work better than anything you’ve tested repeatedly? Or, have you just gotten lazy?  
Maybe these tactics produce temporary and slight upticks in open rates. If so, the boost is short-lived. Most retailers I speak with, however, continue to see declining open rates.
Is This Great Marketing?

You can argue whether "free shipping and 20% off" subject lines and offers are actually marketing or not. That's fine.



For this discussion I’ll concede that these tactics are forms of marketing. But let's agree that they are not creative or compelling forms of marketing.

You still disagree because you say they work. Do they?

Great marketing gets customers to buy when they don't need things and without deep discounts. Great marketing helps build, not weaken powerful brands. Great marketing uses passion and humor. It creates images in the mind and taps into emotion.
Great marketing builds loyal repeat customers who will pay more for your products and services than when purchasing from your competitor.
Great marketing requires strategy and effort. It takes testing, learning and failing.
On that last point, I will give these brands credit for taking risks and trying things. But have they tested great, amazing copy and approaches?
Email marketing teams will spend hours creating, building and testing an email but only 15 minutes on the subject line before pushing the "send" button.
Today, new machine-learning programs help optimize subject lines. But human marketers still need to take the lead and provide the strategy and creative input to produce amazing results.
Regardless of your team's time, process and tools, are you creating great subject lines that not just support but also help build your brand?
Where is the Brand Police?
Product or brand managers often get in the way of good email marketing because they might be clueless on critical issues like font size, rendering on mobile devices, call-to-action buttons, and the need to simplify messages for distracted, on-the-go readers.
But where are the brand police on bad subject lines? Why don't they insert themselves in the subject line process, where they could actually add some value?
Would they be as willing to diminish their brands using robotic, spammy or misleading copy in radio or TV commercials? Maybe, you say. Maybe they already have lowered the bar in other channels as well.
Brands Should Aspire Higher
I’ve never been a fan of GoDaddy’s advertising, but it works because I became a customer.
So, yes the kind of marketing I’m railing against can also be very successful. If it's consistent with your brand essence and brand promise, then knock yourself out.
I’m talking about brands that should aspire higher -- brands with the resources to rise above easy tactics, and create compelling marketing that drives increased consumer engagement, loyalty and revenue.
I’m just not sure most of these brands are succeeding on any level.
Let’s make subject lines great again!
Until next time, take it up a notch.
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